THE INTENTION of Afghanistan's rulers to compel the Hindu minority to wear identifying clothing is a throwback to Nazi Germany's requirement that Jews wear a yellow Star of David in the 1930s, the first preparation for the Holocaust.
The announcement provoked anger in the Hindu majority in India, where tensions threaten the huge Muslim minority.
Unhappily, this action by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is in character for Afghanistan's ruling Islamic reactionaries, the Taliban. Their law commands men to wear beards and shrouds women from sight. It forbids schooling for girls past the age of 8.
After a generation of war, with sick and crippled everywhere, the Taliban shut the best hospital in Kabul, funded by Italy, after catching men and women eating meals in the same room.
It closed U.N. World Food Program bakeries because women worked in them.
The Taliban slaughtered villages and destroyed the arts of a vanished Buddhist culture. The regime just closed United Nations offices designed to promote peace between rulers and rebels, after renewal of U.N. sanctions for sheltering the terrorist training camps of Osama bin Laden.
Neighboring Pakistan promoted the Taliban but failed to temporize its extremism. Pakistan is reeling from 2 million Afghani refugees, trying to keep more out, and quarreling with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees over their care.
The United States, besides pushing sanctions, just made $43 million in food aid available to Afghani farmers suffering drought. It was right to do so.
The Taliban shut down the world's biggest opium-heroin poppy production in a year, the most effective anti-narcotics program in world history, impoverishing both farmers and the regime.
What is evil about the Taliban and what little it does right flow from the same totalitarianism. Praising it for narcotics suppression is like praising Germany's Hitler in the 1930s for boosting employment or Italy's Mussolini for making the trains run on time.
But the people are not the regime. Many are facing starvation. Effective policy distinguishes the oppressors from the oppressed.